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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bengal rejects ‘secret’ report...Home Ministry finalises broad outline of talks on Gorkhaland

Morcha proposal draws flak in hills
TT, March 16: Rivals GNLF, CPRM and the ABGL today threatened to expose the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s “real intention” within 24 hours of Bimal Gurung’s declaration of the “secret proposal” in Kalimpong.
The attack on the Morcha came on a day Gurung briefed a eight-member delegation that will represent the party at the fifth round of tripartite talks scheduled in Delhi on Thursday.
The meeting by GNLF supporters in progress at Sukna on Tuesday. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
At a rally organised in Morcha-dominated Sukna after three years, GNLF leaders said Gurung had said nothing new in Kalimpong yesterday. “Rather, he announced what our leader Subash Ghisingh had proposed under the Sixth Schedule in 2005. For the past three years, the Morcha has been duping the people in the name of achieving Gorkhaland. If Gurung wanted to head a council, he should have approached Ghisingh instead of resorting to violence and playing with the people’s sentiments,” said Rajen Mukhia, the GNLF’s Terai branch convener. The rally was attended by over 300 people.
Ghisingh’s outfit had so far been restricted to holding meetings in the Panighata area of Kurseong subdivision.
Mukhia said the people would stop the Morcha leaders from entering the hills if they signed any agreement in Delhi. “We will not allow them to come out of the Bagdogra airport if they sign anything (other than statehood).”
A former GNLF panchayat pradhan of Sukna, Tshering Dahal, said the party would now tell the people about the Morcha’s “real intentions”. “We will no longer tolerate the torture we had been subjected to all these years and we will retaliate,” she said.
In Darjeeling, CPRM general secretary R.B. Rai pointed out some alleged anomalies in the Morcha document. “The proposal says that the interim arrangement will last till December 31, 2011. Can this be done by an amendment in Parliament for such a short time? They are probably looking at continuing for some time after 2011 given the fact that they want Rs 2,000 crore to be disbursed by the Centre over a period of five years,” Rai said.
The ABGL president, Madan Tamang, described Gurung as the “leading actor” of a drama staged by the Centre and the state. “We had spelt out our apprehensions earlier and yesterday’s disclosure by the Morcha in Kalimpong has confirmed this. The people of the hills will reject them (the Morcha),” he said in Siliguri.
In Darjeeling, Morcha spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chhetri said: “We have worked out a strategy (for the Delhi talks), but this cannot be disclosed to the media now.”
Sources, however, told The Telegraph that the Morcha was likely to stand firm on its territorial demand. “We will not compromise on the territory,” a Morcha leader said.
GLP adoption only blot on Delhi plan: State
TT, Calcutta, March 16: The West Bengal government will stand firmly by the Centre’s proposal to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to opt for an autonomous body with wider financial and legislative powers at the March 18 talks, but will oppose the absorption of the Gorkhaland Personnel into the country’s security forces.
“The state government has endorsed the Centre’s proposal in principle, barring the GLP issue, and has totally rejected what the Morcha revealed yesterday. There is no question of ceding powers like law and order and judiciary,” a senior official in the chief minister’s secretariat said today. He said the Morcha’s demands for own police service, high court, a public service commission and an advocate-general tantamount to virtual statehood.
As far as the GLP is concerned, the state had serious reservations about the rationality of the suggestions made both by the Centre and the Morcha. “Security personnel are recruited through a proper examination process all over the country. Why should suddenly a group of people be absorbed into the police, para-military forces and even the army just like that? This cannot be adhered to,” the official said.
The official also said the state had no objection to the hill body being directly under the control of the governor, tabling of annual reports in the Assembly and direct financial assistance from the Centre.
The Centre’s proposal was made public by the Morcha in Kalimpong yesterday “so that people could make a comparative study” with the “secret proposal” that the party had sent to Delhi.
State municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya, who will represent the Bengal government at the talks, met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings today to discuss the strategy to be adopted at the first political-level talks to be held in Delhi on March 18. Bhattacharya will be accompanied by state health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra.
After the meeting with the chief minister, Bhattacharya said: “Since the talks are scheduled for Thursday we discussed the points to be raised by the state government… and the chief minister also offered certain suggestions.
“The state home secretary, Ardhendu Sen, is accompanying us to Delhi. I am not sure about whether he would participate in the talks, but I am told that the Union home secretary will be there.”
An official said the granting of Scheduled Tribe status to the Gorkhas and the formation of an elected body to run the hills were the only two points in the Morcha proposal that the state government was willing to discuss.
“However, the state government…does not agree to a 55-member council suggested by the Morcha. It would rather be more rational to have a 28-member elected body to govern the hills,” the official said.
Under the DGHC Act, 1988, the council comprises 42 members of whom 28 are elected and the rest nominated by the state government.
“The Centre has proposed a 20-member body, with 15 elected members, but the state government would have no objection if the members are increased to 28 as was prevalent during the DGHC days,” the official said.
The official said the Centre’s proposal to increase the legislative powers of the hill body so that it could make bylaws on 54 subjects was also not a bone of contention with the state government.
Home Ministry finalises broad outline of talks on Gorkhaland

PTI, New Delhi, March 16: The Home Ministry on Tuesday held detailed discussions to decide the broad contours of the fifth round of tripartite talks on Gorkhaland issue starting from March 18, where Gorkha Janmukti Morcha may bargain hard for regional authority having powers similar to that of a state. 
The talks will be held at a political level with Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Maken representing the Centre as well as Congress, while Dinesh Trivedi will be from Trinamool Congress and CPI-M will have two representatives in it. 
Maken, who will lead the Home Ministry, had detailed meeting with the Home Secretary today to discuss the issue.
The meeting of the duo was followed by another round of deliberations with Home Minister P Chidambaram to decide on the issues which could be raised by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in the fifth round of talks, official sources said.
The GJM is demanding a "regional authority" within West Bengal with powers similar to that of a state, they said.
It has also agreed to leave some of plains from the proposed authority, they said.
According to plan mooted by the GJM, the regional authority should have no interference from West Bengal state government besides having powers on law and order and a body like a state assembly, they said. 
The regional authority may be named either the Gorkhaland Regional Authority or the Darjeeling and Dooars Regional Authority, the sources said.
During the fourth round of tripartite talks in Darjeeling on December 21, the GJM had demanded that the next round be held in Delhi at the political level.
The Centre agreed to the GJM demand and Chidambaram had said the tripartite meeting will be held on March 18 among the Central government, the West Bengal government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to find a solution which will be "held at a political level".
"We are happy that the government has agreed to hold tripartite talks at the political level as demanded by us," GJM general secretary Roshan Giri had said.
Stating that the demand for Gorkhaland was a political one and has to be solved politically, he said, "We want that the talks to be solely on Gorkhaland." 
Adivasi rap for support

TT, Siliguri, March 16: 
The state leadership of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad has decided to pull up its Dooars unit for supporting the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s proposal for an interim autonomous authority.
After Morcha president Bimal Gurung revealed his “secret proposal” to the Centre in Kalimpong yesterday, a four-member team of the hill party met the leaders of the Parishad’s Dooars unit in Chulsa and briefed them on the document.
Kiran Kalindi, an adviser to the Terai-Dooars regional unit of the Parishad had said after the meeting that “if this (the Morcha’s proposal) means that the Dooars will benefit from this move in terms of development, we have no problems with the Morcha’s proposal”.
But the state leadership of the Parishad is unhappy with the regional unit’s support to the Morcha. “Our next state committee meeting will be held in Calcutta on March 20 and we will demand an explanation from our members about the Chulsa meeting. If we find that their replies are not satisfactory, we will take disciplinary action against them,” said Birsa Tirkey, the state president of the party.
“We want to develop the areas by forming a Terai Dooars Development Council, an autonomous body, and we demand that it be formed under the Sixth Schedule within the framework of the Indian Constitution,” Tirkey said over the phone from Calcutta today. “If somebody wants to divert our movement to some other direction on the pretext of development, we are not going to allow them,” he said.
Kalindi said they were ready to explain their stand to the state leaders. “We have supported the Morcha’s proposal as it is in favour of development and we are ready to explain our stand to the state leaders.”
Hill teachers call off exam boycott 
- Nod to job regularisation in schools
TT, Kalimpong/Calcutta, March 16: The Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation withdrew the boycott of exam duties following a positive outcome at its talks with the Bengal school education minister in Calcutta today.
JSTO spokesperson Bhisan Roka told The Telegraphthat the minister, Partha Dey, had agreed to begin the process of regularising the services of 474 adhoc teachers and 78 non-teaching staff working in government-aided schools in the Darjeeling hills.
“A decision was taken at the meeting to constitute a five-member board to scrutinise their qualifications and to recommend their appointments. So, we have decided to suspend our agitation with immediate effect,” said Roka.
The appointment of a panel to recommend the regularisation of jobs was one of the three main demands put forward by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-affiliated union.
The other demands are the upgrade of junior schools into high schools and high schools into Higher Secondary schools and appointment of teachers in-charge (read acting headmasters) as permanent headmasters.
To pressure the government into fulfilling their demands, the hill teachers had refused to evaluate the answer papers of Madhyamik exams, which concluded recently, and threatened to abstain from invigilating the Higher Secondary exams starting tomorrow.
The board will comprise two members from the field of education, two others recommended by the DGHC and a person of eminence from the hills.
“The additional chief secretary (education), Bikram Sen, who was also present at the meeting, has invited us to another round of talks in Calcutta on March 25,” said Roka.
He added that the minister had also instructed Sen to start the process of filling the vacant posts in wholly government schools through the state Public Service Commission. In all, there are as many as 37 vacancies in Darjeeling Government High School, Kalimpong Government High School and Sar High School.
“As regards the realisation of other demands, the minister said they would be taken up once the process of regularisation of jobs of adhoc teachers was completed,” he added.
“The outcome of today’s meeting was positive. We will do the needful to solve their demands. I am happy that the organisation has agreed to withdraw the agitation considering the interests of lakhs of Higher Secondary and Madhyamik students,” Dey said.
Telangana rush killed hill deal 
- How breakthrough got derailed in December
TT, Darjeeling, March 16: The Gorkhaland issue could have been resolved, at least for the time being, on December 21 itself had the Centre not promised in haste statehood to Telangana, information collected by The Telegraph suggests.
It was generally believed that the Telangana decision had breathed fresh life into the Gorkhaland campaign. But it was not known till now how Delhi’s decision had an immediate and direct impact on Bengal and how close the three sides had been to a breakthrough.
All parties concerned — the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the Bengal government and the Centre — had more or less accepted a central draft “formula” that was disclosed by the hill outfit yesterday, state government sources said today.
The draft, which mooted an authority with greater autonomy and under the direct control of the governor, was “informally” circulated among the three parties two weeks before tripartite talks were held on December 21 in Darjeeling.
However, on December 9 — a few days after the draft was given out — the Centre muddled the situation by promising to initiate the process to form a Telangana state. Till today, it has not been conclusively established what prompted Union minister P. Chidambaram — many see the hand of the Congress leadership — to make such an announcement.
The stunning announcement not only ignited a backlash in Andhra but also made it untenable for the Morcha to agree to anything less than full statehood, the sources said. Till then, the three parties discussing the Gorkhaland issue had managed to arrive at a tentative agreement that the draft would be tabled at the December 21 talks and then discussed to iron out the finer points.
“In general, the central government’s draft proposal had been agreed to by all the parties concerned,” an official said. “It had, in principle, been accepted. But, of course, there was room for bargaining by all sides concerned.”
However, Chidambaram’s announcement on December 9 forced the Morcha to raise the stakes and stick to its demand for a separate state.
The only clause the state government was in disagreement with was the last one, which stated “Gorkhaland Personnel would be considered for recruitment in the police, army and the paramilitary forces”.
The sources said even this clause was subject to discussion and the state government was willing to go ahead with the Centre’s proposal as it would bring peace and stability to the hills.
“It was almost as though the entire deal with the Morcha had been sealed,” an official said. “But suddenly came the Telangana statehood announcement and it got the back of the Morcha up and it hiked its stakes, thinking that a Gorkhaland state could actually become a reality.”
This prompted the Morcha to prevent Union home secretary G.K. Pillai from tabling the Centre’s proposal at the December 21 tripartite talks.
“Suddenly, the Morcha’s mood seemed to have totally changed,” an official present at the talks said. “It was a deal we had all thought was virtually signed and sealed. But the prospect of statehood had become so real for the Morcha that it would not hear any more of the deal that had, for all practical purposes, been struck with the Centre. Now it is back to the drawing board.”
After this, the Morcha drew up its “secret proposal”, virtually proposing a state within a state. State government officials said the Morcha’s virtual statehood proposal was unacceptable.
The state government, sources said, is hoping that during the March 18 talks in Delhi, the Centre will impress upon the Morcha that the Telangana state will not easily happen and will try to revive the December proposal.
8 NE Poets including Sikkim awarded at Nagaland
Kohima, March 15: Eight eminent poets and journalists of North Eastern States including Sikkim were honoured by Chief Minister of Nagaland, Shri Neiphiu Rio in a function held here at 16 Assam Rifles Auditorium organized jointly by the poetry society India North East Region and Assam Rifles coinciding with the 175th anniversary of Assam Rifles and 25thanniversary of the poetry Society(India). The North East Poets and Journalists who were awarded include poetess and journalist Mamang Dai from Arunachal Pradesh, poet and journalist Bijay Bantawa from Sikkim, Poetess and Professor of North East Hill University streamlet Dkhar from Meghalaya, Kalyan Gupta from Tripura, Hiren  Bhattacharya, the.poet from Assam, Poet Rahu Leishangtielm from Manipur  and  Prof. L. Khiangte from Mizoram from Nagaland. The poets from Assam could not attend to receive the award due to health reason. The awardees were given memento, citation and Naga shawl by the Chief Minister of Nagaland.On the occasion, the 5th Nagaland Poetry Competition was alsoorganized in which ten best poets and poetesses of  Nagaland were also awarded.
Noel Manuel, the co-ordinator of the poetry society(India) highlighted the contribution of the North East Poets who were honoured on the occasion. He said that most of the poets and poetesses have already received Sahitya Academy awards and Padmashri award from Government of India, while some of them have contributed for a long time in their regional languages and in English in the region and therefore, the poetry Society(India) decided to give them the award for their outstanding contribution.
While speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister of Nagaland, Mr. Neiphiu Rio lauded the contribution of the poets and the literary persons in highlighting the various burning issues of the people in a better manner and in finding out best solution for the development of society and the country. He urged the poets to highlight such sensitive issues through their writings in order to inspire and enlighten them. The poets recited their self composed poetry too on the occasion. Gracing the occasion, Rishi Sharma a renowned signer from Assam sang a song describing the beauty of Nagaland and Sikkim. Later on, Col. Rajwant Sing and his officers arranged the sight seeing of the visiting poets. They were taken to Nagaland heritage village, War Cementry and other places. Before departure to their respective homes, the poets were informed about the forthcoming poetry festival to be held at Guwahati from March 25 to March 27 and invited them in the said festival accordingly.

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